Rafael Nadal is a grinder. He plays every point with the same amount of energy and passion. However, that physical play has caught up with him, leading to the knee injury that's kept him off the court. He should now skip the rest of the season to ensure he gets back to full strength.
The 11-time major tournament champion admitted that's a definite possibility due to his slow recovery progress, according to The Telegraph. His comments contradict what Toni Nadal, his uncle and coach, said recently.
"Impossible, no. But difficult, yes," Nadal said when asked whether he would make a comeback before the end of the season.
"I want to go day-by-day, I go every day to the gym, the swimming pool to continue with my recovery. I am trying not to think that far."
Nadal hasn't played since Wimbledon in late June. He missed the London Olympics and the season's final Grand Slam event, the U.S. Open. The fact an ultimate competitor like him missed those two tournaments is a clear indication of how much he's been hurting.
Even though he would love to play in the ATP Tour and Davis Cup finals, it just isn't worth the risk to rush back and potentially suffer a major setback that could cut his 2013 season short. It would turn one lost season into two.
Should Nadal try to return this season?
Nadal is still just 26. He needs to keep his long-term interests in mind. Playing in a couple of big events before year's end would be nice, but there are bigger missions to be accomplished in the future and he'll need healthy knees to do it.
The Spanish star is unique. He doesn't have a monster serve or extremely powerful ground strokes. He's just really solid in every area and beats his opponents by outworking them until they no longer have the will or energy to keep battling.
While it's an effective strategy that he's employed for his entire career, it doesn't work when he's battling injuries. A healthy Nadal would have never lost to Lukas Rosol on the sport's most storied stage, the All England Club.
Knowing that, he has to show patience with his rehab. Fans are eagerly awaiting his return, but everybody wants to see him in top-notch form. The only way to ensure that happens is to give the knee time to heal completely.
He still has more than three months until the 2013 Australian Open. For now, that should be his target tournament as long as his progress continues at a steady rate.
Anything before that isn't worth the long-term risk.